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Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Interview with Valmore Daniels, Author of Forbidden The Stars.

 In true nomadic spirit, Valmore Daniels has lived on the coasts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans, and dozens of points in between.

An insatiable thirst for new experiences has led him to work in several fields, including legal research, elderly care, oil & gas administration, web design, government service, human resources, and retail business management.
His enthusiasm for travel is only surpassed by his passion for telling tall tales.

Tell us about Forbidden The Stars in a few sentences.

Forbidden The Stars is an examination of the events leading up to humankind's Interstellar Age and first contact with an Extra-solar race. It's also a very human story focusing on the key players who discover, fight over, and develop the technology for faster than light travel.
 
What qualities do you need to be a successful writer?

Everyone defines success in a different manner.  I believe the ability to reach out with your words and stir the emotions of someone you have never met, whether it be to give them a sense of joy or anger, or make them see the world a little differently, or even just to get their minds off the stress of day to day life for a few hours, is really the only true measure of success.

What is your working method?

Everyone is different.  For me, I am methodical in nearly every aspect of my life. When it comes to writing a novel, I begin with a working title and theme or premise, and then I build a synopsis. Once I have a general idea of the main highlights, I spend a great deal of time outlining the major plot points. Once I have the storyline down, then I am free to explore the characters through the first draft without having to worry about plot. Then begins the most grueling part: editing.

What is the single biggest mistake made by beginners to writing?

Writing in their own head. The story in my head is as real as any memory I have, but the trick is to translate those thoughts and memories to someone who has never experienced your world. This is why you need real-time feedback on what you write, because there is no way a writer can be impartial to their own writing.

How did you come to write this particular book?

I'm a big fan of "what if".  When I watched the Space Shuttle Columbia take off on its maiden voyage, I immediately imagined myself on that flight. As a teenager at the time, I wondered how that would be possible. What if I hijacked the shuttle?  With that, I started plotting out the story.

If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?

I always identify closely with the protagonist. Whenever I write, I put myself in their positions, so many of their reactions and thoughts are variations of my own. The seed of the idea came when I was a teenager; the protagonist is a teenager. For many of my main characters, they are a reflection of a time in my own life.

How can people buy your book?

Currently, I have listings at the following online retailers: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Smashwords / B&N / Kobo / Powells / Sony / Diesel. I also maintain a full list of links on my website, http://www.ValmoreDaniels.com

To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?

Imperative. Everyone makes grammatical and spelling errors. I always say I'm a storyteller, not a speller. However, if your manuscript is riddled with errors, it erodes your credibility. In order to put your best foot forward, you need to spend as much time editing and proofreading as you do writing ... and then cajole or hire as many other people as you can to edit and proofread to catch the hundreds of mistakes you missed.

How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off?

Most of my decisions are made in the outlining process, but there is invariably a moment while writing the first draft when my character takes on a life of his or her own, and does something unexpected. At that point, I have to go back to the outline and make changes, then meticulously pour through the manuscript and repair any plot holes my character's actions caused.

Where and when is your novel set and why did you make these specific choices?

In my original outline the story was set in present day, but as I outlined, I added a few more "what ifs" to the novel: What if there was an undiscovered element in the asteroid belt that was the fuel for faster than light travel? What if there were tens of thousands of alien races out there just waiting for humans to evolve before making first contact? And I knew I needed to project my setting to the end of the century.

To what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?

Genre merely prepares the reader for what kind of story to expect, in a very general way; however, many of the finest works being released are cross-genre, and this is a very exciting development.

What are your writing habits?

I prefer absolute seclusion when I write; I never get it, though. So, often, I can only write snippets here and there throughout the day. The story is ever present in my mind, and I write and rewrite scenes in my head a dozen times before committing them to paper.

How do you know where to begin any given story?

As close to the main action as possible. You always have to set the stage, but I find it more effective to describe setting and character background in between action scenes.

What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing?

Life and everything in it. :)

Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group?

For many years I was involved in an in-person writing group, and developed by leaps and bounds. Recently, I joined an online writers group. I believe this is one of the most effective means to grow as a writer, to get immediate real-time feedback.

Is presentation of the MS as important as most agents and publishers suggest?

A clean and straightforward manuscript is vitally important, if you are submitting to agents or publishers. You only get to make a first impression once, and if the first page of your manuscript is riddled with typos, that suggests that the writer is too lazy to spell-check, and may reflect on the quality of their writing and storytelling ability.

How long does it normally take you to write a novel?

From concept to completion, about four hundred to six hundred hours, sometimes spread over months or years.

What are your inspirations?

If I read a great book, or see a news story, or have a unique personal experience; any of those can spark my imagination.

If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it?

I enjoy every aspect of writing except when I've written myself into a corner and realize I need to revise a major portion of the manuscript in order to realign the story. That usually only happens when one of my characters deviates from the main plot and goes off on their own tangent.

Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?

Everyone is born with the ability to tell stories. Developing that basic skill into a craft or profession takes thousands of hours of work and dedication.

What are you writing now?

I'm currently about a quarter of the way through the first draft of a paranormal drama about a young woman who accidentally killed her parents with her supernatural curse; and how she tries to re-integrate with her family and small town ten years later.

Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy?

I love writing. When I am writing, the real world fades and my imagined world becomes reality.

Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?

Yes, you can visit me at any of the following sites: Website / Facebook / Goodreads / Twitter
Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?

My in-laws own a cabin on a lake in British Columbia, Canada, where W.O. Mitchell wrote many of his novels. It is an awe-inspiring location. I could see myself spending years there, developing my stories.

Where do you actually write?

At the kitchen table on a laptop, desperately trying to ignore the sounds of the television and teenagers.

Thank you for having me, Stuart.

Valmore Daniels
Amazon US / Amazon UK / Smashwords / B&N / Kobo / Powells / Sony / Diesel
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